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SAT scores show mixed results as more isle students take exam


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Two out of five graduating public school seniors who took the SAT college entrance exam came from families whose parents did not go to college, according to statistics provided by the state Department of Education.

Of the 4,890 public school students taking the SAT test, 42 percent, or 1,877 students, came from families with parents with a high school diploma or less education.

“;It may well be that more kids are coming in now (seeking a college education), but whether they are prepared to come in ... is something we are going to be working on,”; said Linda Johnsrud, University of Hawaii vice president for policy and planning.

Hawaii public and private school seniors averaged SAT scores of 479 in reading, 502 in math and 469 in writing, according to results released yesterday.

The results are unchanged from last year in math, down two points in reading and down one point in writing.

Nationally the average was 501 in reading, 515 in mathematics and 493 in writing. A perfect score is 800 for each test.

Public school students increased in math, held steady in writing and decreased in reading. Private school students from nonreligious institutions saw improvement in all three test scores, and religious school students improved in math and writing but declined in reading.

In Hawaii, 8,313 public and private school students completed the test this year, a 3 percent increase over the number of people taking the test last year.

“;What we're seeing is more students taking the exam,”; said Anna Viggiano, an educational specialist at the DOE. “;You don't have just the cream of the crop taking the exam. When you open up access, you can expect to see a drop in scores.”;

Nationally, more than 1.5 million students, a record, took the exams, which are widely used in the admissions process, according to the College Board, which administers the exam.

Scores on the SAT have been drifting downward for the last five years, both nationally and in Hawaii. Students taking the SAT are more ethnically and economically diverse, but there appears to be a widening scoring gap among students based on wealth, ethnicity and family educational background.

GEAR UP Hawaii, a federally funded program that encourages low-income students to go to college, is expected today to announce a STEP UP initiative, aimed at encouraging middle school and high school students to take more rigorous classes, Johnsrud said.

“;We've emphasized college-going for a long time. Now we're emphasizing being prepared for college,”; Johnsrud said.

The College Board noted that students who complete a core curriculum—four or more years of English, three or more years of math, three or more years of natural science and three or more years of social science and history—scored an average of 40 points higher on reading, 44 points higher on math and 45 points higher in writing on the SAT.

Star-Bulletin news services contributed to this report.